BOOK REVIEW: BY THE BLOOD OF HEROES by JOSEPH NASSISE
“At the end of 1917, the increasingly desperate Germans introduce a new gas to the battlefield: T-Leiche-“corpse gas” – that radically alters the face of the war. Unlike other chemical weapons that attack the living, T-Leiche resurrects the bodies of the dead, giving the enemy an almost unlimited, if not quite fresh, source of troops. When legendary Allied pilot and war poster-boy Major Jack Freeman is shot down and taken captive by the Germans, veteran Captain Michael “Madman” Burke is the only man fearless and wild enough to try to rescue the American Ace. With a small squad of heroes – his right-hand man Sergeant Moore, Clayton Manning, the filthy rich big-game hunter turned soldier, and professor Dan Richards, Tesla protege and the resident authority on all things supernatural – Burke must traverse the putrid ground of no man’s land to infiltrate the enemy’s lines. Using an experimental drilling vehicle, the team faces incredible danger and finds risk and peril at every turn, including ruthless traitor smugglers and marauding bands of the Kaiser’s undead. But only when they arrive at the prison camp is the true importance of their mission unveiled. Now, they just have to get back to their own trenches – if they can stay undead, that is.”
As readers of this blog know very well, I am a sucker for well done pulp horror, but how was I going to take to pulp horror novel that throws zombies, Zeppelins, and tally ho dashing World War One heroics? I took it really well in fact, although that was no surprise really as I have been a fan Joseph’s writing since I read his excellent Riverwatch many many moons ago.
By The Blood of Heroes, follows a similar line to that of Kim Newman’s The Bloody Red Barron, in that it mixes horror, steampunk, and fantasy into the real world setting of World War One. However, where Kim’s book is full of pop culture references, and nods to other books, By The blood of Heroes is a stripped of these references and jumps straight into the action. While the two novels may share the same maternal gene pool, it would be unfair to compare the two books. I am a big fan of both books By The Blood of Heroes stands on it’s own two feet.
The action kicks of straight away and introduces us to the novels main players, the world weary Captain Michael “Madman” Burke, tasked with saving the spiffing and dashing Major Jack Freeman from the clutches of the dastardly Germans. The action never lets up, and by the time you turn the last page you will have finished an extremely entraining and fun novel. That is packed to the gunnels with some brilliant set pieces, from the opening trench battle, where we are introduced to a new breed of shamblers, to the breathtaking arieal battle that takes palce as our rescue team “chute” in on their rescue mission. Those of you, who like myself, have become jaded with the zombie genre, fear not. This is not a zombie book. This is more of a full on action packed adventure story that just happens to have the undead as a supporting cast.
The steampunk setting of the novel is great, and Joseph has a vivid imagination, giant burrowing tanks, mechanical hands, huge airships, and lots and lots of Baron Frankenstein style machines that spark electricity add to the enjoyment of the book.
With books of this sort it is all well and good having a good action packed story, for it to really succeed it needs a decent and strong cast of characters. This is something that Joseph realises and he has populated the book with some really interesting characters.
I do one criticism of the novel, while the book is full of great characters, I did find it hard to place the nationality of the cast. There was no sense of Americans being Americans, and the British being British. Personally I would have liked a greater sense of nationality.
By The Blood of Heroes is a great book, and I am sure you will have as much fun reading this as I did.
8 out of 10